- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 10 hours and 12 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 3 April 2014
- Language: English, English
- ASIN: B00J94VB4W
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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Secrets of the Sea House Audiobook – Unabridged
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In the present day, Ruth and Michael have bought an old Vicarage with the intention of completely renovating it. They have overreached themselves financially, and it doesn't help that the skeleton of a child has just been found beneath one of the rooms, creating a hold up while the police investigate. Distracted from her work, Ruth sets about investigating the history of those who had lived in the house before them, particularly a Victorian clergyman who appeared to be completely obsessed with selkies.
The story is told from three points of view: Ruth, the Rev Alexander Ferguson, and Moira his maid. Ruth is not immediately likeable, but that's due to her past history. I found Alexander's narrative a bit hard going at first, as I've never been keen on stories written in that old style of English, even if it is historically accurate. Moira's story seemed a little bit repetitive, but in the end she became my favourite character.
So at first this story was heading for a solid four stars, but then I became swept up with the characters and their lives, particularly the Victorian timeline and Alexander's tales of mermaids and selkies. I'm English, so I don't know much about Scottish myths and legends, but I found this aspect of the story particularly fascinating. I also enjoyed Alexander's journey from a kind-hearted, slightly naive vicar to - ah, well that would be a spoiler!
Anyway, this one is definitely going on my list of favourite reads and I've already downloaded another book by the same author. Recommended!
Often I find that a novel with dual-time narratives, set a long time apart, suffers because one story - typically, the older one - is much more compelling than the other. But this is not the case here.
The contemporary story is about Ruth, a young mother-to-be who is burdenned by the apparent suicide of her mother and by shadowy memories of the children’s home she was brought up in. A strange baby corpse is found buried beneath Ruth and her gentle husband’s house in Harris, which begins to prey on Ruth’s fragile mind. But this is not a horror story. It is about excavating the literal and psychological past in order to free the present.
I loved the cleverly linked nineteenth century narrative about a good but hopelessly naive clergyman and the two young women who fall in love with him on rugged and remote Harris. There are brilliant short passages about the hardship of crofting life and fascinating, practical insights, as when the prospective visit of the laird’s daughter fills the poor servant girl Moira with consternation, worrying about ‘Maggie Kintail’s chickens, which like to live under the bench near the fire ... not to mention the ram that ... still tries to get in through the back door.’
Disappointingly, after the opening chapters, the rugged, stark landscape of Harris features only a few times.
What can I say, within the first few pages I was left completely cold. The prose was perfunctory, it felt laboured, as though the author struggled with every word. In short, it read like an instruction manual, functional, simplistic and just, cold.
Try as I might, I couldn’t make it much beyond the first 3 chapters. The characters just seemed flat and 2 dimensional.
Anyone hoping, as I was, for a flowery historical time slip in the vein of Kate Morton, or the successor to the suspicions of mr whicher, will likely be disappointed.
Then the story flips back to the 19th century and we meet Rev Alexander Fergusson and his housekeeper Moira. the Reverend is obsessed with proving the existence of mermaids or selkies.
The story deals with the history of the islands and the displacement of the inhabitants by the landlord and it marries mythology in with history and modern times. I enjoyed the story and would recommend it.